Quezon City urban poor sues ‘Bistek’

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A group of urban poor families has slammed Quezon City Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista and a task force he created to prevent squatting on public lands for allegedly acting as executive, legislative and judiciary at the same time when they were ejected from a private property.

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Aided by their counsel, Joel Pradia, more than 30 petitioners led by Expedido Palentinos, Cesar Altarejos and Conrado Balagtas, decided to bring their case before Branch 97 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) and sought a permanent injunction and a temporary restraining order.

Pradia questioned the motives of the city government, specifically the Task Force COPRISS (Control and Prevention of Illegal Structures and Squatting) headed by one Marlowe Jacutin, for getting the informal settler families ejected from a private lot on the North Diversion Road in Camachile, Balintawak where they have been staying for 20 to 30 years.

He said the claim of spouses Edilberto and Dolores Palispis, who “suddenly sprung into existence to claim ownership,” have been repeatedly and convincingly denied by the lower court (both RTC and metropolitan trial courts), Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

“Spouses Palispis resorted to a series of [acts of]harassment to force the hapless residents to vacate the property without the necessity of court orders when they sought the intervention of the mayor’s task force, which in turn acted in the spouses’ favor,” Pradia said.

He added: “By intruding on the domains of the courts, the local government is making itself a super power with all the inherent powers of government, executive, legislative and judicial.”

The petitioners said the March 17 demolition order was a circumvention of the court decisions including that of the high tribunal which dismissed the ejectment cases filed by the Palispis couple.

In showing favor to the couple, Pradia said, the city government “arrogates unto itself constitutional powers exclusively vested in the courts and the demolition order constitutes judicial encroachment which clearly violates the system of separation of powers.”

He reiterated that Bautista cannot exercise purely judicial functions as the Constitution clearly and specifically prohibits it.

“Otherwise, anybody can just [go]to the mayor and the task force he created to adjudicate issues of ownership or right of possession rather than go through the long and tedious process of court litigation. This cannot be done as this would weaken our judicial system,” said Pradia, who added that the task force Bautista created “acts as if it is higher than the courts.”

He said the task force should be dismantling illegal structures built on public property like creeks and danger zones, among others, since it is authorized only to avert the proliferation of illegal structures and squatting on public property and prevent those to be constructed.

It has no jurisdiction over structures that have long been in existence because the remedy of the party claiming possession is to file the proper action in court, Pradia explained.

He believed that Bautista was unaware of the task force’s abuses.

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